musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: Johannesburg

5 years ago

On this day 5 years ago I was facing my last day in South Africa. At this point last of my possessions had been moved to the storage unit and there were no more sleeps left as I had to catch my flight. I had accommodation organised for my first week in London, but anything after that was uncertain. On arrival my priorities were: find a place to stay,  open a bank account, obtain a National Insurance Number, have my qualifications assessed, and find work. I had played these scenarios out in my mind a number of times, but was pretty sure that the odds of finding work almost immediately were small. When I had originally planned this I had decided that I really wanted to settle in Southampton, although that depended on whether I found work elsewhere first. I had visited the UK in 2008 so was not completely in the dark about what it was like. At least I more or less knew where London was!

I had a lot of stuff to store, so much so that I hired a storage unit to keep it all in, and the last week I spent driving to and from the unit and offloading into it. The unit also had to be big enough for my car which I had not sold. It is scarey how much stuff I really had at that point, much of which would be superfluous with me being the UK, but I was loathe to dispose of my books and other collectables. 

At my age (52) packing up and leaving is not easy, I literally had to turn my back on everything I had accumulated since I moved out of the family home so many years ago. Make no mistake, I had no loyalty to South Africa, I could easily turn my back on the place without a second glance. I would not be missing “braaivleis, rugby, sunnyskies and Chevrolet”, although I would miss Mrs Ball’s Chutney.

My visa was for 5 years and the start date was 1 January 2013. My original plan had been to leave on the 15th of Jan, but as things turned out I finally left on 28 Feb. 

The last sunset I saw in South Africa for a year

My flight was not a direct one, but via Dubai, and it would be a long schlep with roughly 17 hours in the air and 4 hours in transit in Dubai, and unusually it was partly during the day but I was still dreading the flight the most.

There were many preparations that I had to make; that included changing money (I seem to think the exchange rate was around R14 to £1), getting enough medication to last me at least 3 months until I had organised a doctor and a new repeat prescription. I was not lugging too many clothes around although, and was technically “traveling light”. Because my arrival would be towards the end of Winter I did have to take warm clothing and that included my infamous 20 year navy parka. I also needed comfortable shoes, and bought a pair that seemed perfect but which turned out to be hell to wear. At the last minute I also bought a pair of Hi-techs that served me very well through many cemetery visits. I was also going to take my coal burning laptop because I would really need to search for work and frankly my small smartphone not be adequate for that task. 

I closed my bank account and killed off as much debt as I could, the one thing I did not need was having to run around trying to placate my creditors. A last minute snag with my broadband provider did cause me a lot of trouble and I ended up fighting with them while waiting for my flight at the airport. Fortunately when things went pear shaped at work my car was finished paid for so it was really a case of paying insurance while it languished in storage. 

It is very difficult to believe that 5 years have almost passed and I am now heading into year 6. I have seen many things in this period or my life, and have taken thousands of photographs to prove that “I was there”. The most difficult thing to believe is that I have literally started over. Although realistically starting from scratch really started in Southampton and not in London.

Was I scared? I would have been an idiot not to be, if things went pear shaped I was up the creek without a paddle, and because I had a one way ticket could not return to South Africa easily. I did not have any friends in the UK that I could call on and I really had to make a success of it as quickly as possible.  The fact remained that I was not able to find work in SA, I was prevented so by the constitution and legislation that enforced discrimination in the guise of “transformation”. It is important to know that my retrenchment was not a result of any racist agenda by the company I worked for, but rather a result of skulduggery by those in charge. Many of my African co-workers were similarly retrenched when I was.

In the 5 years I have been in the UK I have lived in London, Southampton, Salisbury, Basingstoke, Burntwood and Tewkesbury. The furtherest North I have been is Crich to visit the Tramway Museum. I have been to many museums in my travels, and walked myself to a standstill on a number of occasions.  I am much more physically active here than I was in South Africa. I have even started to ride a bicycle, but have not driven in the UK yet (although I do have a license to drive).

What do I find different?

For starters their postal system works! But the much vaunted NHS does not live up to the Doctors and medical professionals that I encountered back in SA, although I was a paying patient in SA (I had a medical aid). What amazes me in my day to day life is how many people I see. Dogs get walked, children accompany their parents to shops or the park, the trains and buses work, the weather is not only overcast and wet, houses are not fortresses, and life does not revolve around driving from home to the mall and back, or braai-ing meat over a weekend

There are negatives too: accommodation is expensive and hard to find, meat is pricey, food can be expensive depending on where you shop, London can get horribly crowded, employers do not tolerate slackers and works starts and finishes on time with overtime being paid unlike in SA. Safety in the workplace is often crazy but it is also there for a reason. 

I have met people from many countries, and I have worked with all manner of nationalities. Unfortunately my poor hearing and their accents does sometime create odd looks. Tatoo’s and “vaping” are very big, as are tanning salons, betting shops and nail bars. Many of the cities in the UK are in a decline as they are realistically built around old towns with a much simpler layout. I currently live in a small town and it and goes back many centuries and it too is suffering from the accommodation shortage and declining business within its borders. My council tax is roughly £75 per month and on top of that I still pay National Insurance and income tax. I was fortunate enough to find a bedsit and lead my own life surrounded by my ships and toys. I do miss my books, although have quite a collection already. I came to the UK with 1 suitcase and a wheelie bag, I now have 3 suitcases and 3 wheelie bags (and a wodge of other bits and pieces).

The experience has been a life changer for me though, at my “advanced age” (nudge nudge wink wink) I have had to adjust myself to a whole new country, timezone, hemisphere and culture. Fortunately I am somewhat of an anglophile so it was not too difficult. My biggest challenge has been in the workplace. Lets face it, my skills are out of date and my poor eyesight really negates me applying for jobs that require small work. I have however worked 3 temp job, the first as a baggage handler, the 2nd as a “recycling operative” and the third as an “assembly operative” in the manufacturing industry. Those entry level jobs do not exist in South Africa and if they do come available get flooded by thousands of applicants.

Like many places the UK has its problems. I was here when the Brexit referendum occurred and by the looks of it will be here when Brexit actually happens. Gang violence does occur in some cities, knife crime is commonplace and drugs and alcohol abuse are a problem. Hooliganism and petty vandalism are common too, but alcohol does play a major part in it. Overall people obey the rules of the road (which can be confusing), and parking is expensive. Relatively speaking cars are quite cheap to buy but not as cheap to operate. I do miss my car, especially where I live now which is somewhat of a public transportation dead zone. Rail fares are not cheap either, especially if bought on the day and in peak hours. Bus fares are expensive too (Day rider is £7.50 to Cheltenham and back). However, public transport does exist unlike in SA. The transport system in London is to be seen to be believed. 

The weather does play a major part in our lives, and flooding happens more often here than it does in SA. Gloucestershire suffered a disastrous flood in 2007, and I tend to be nervous when it rains.

Snow is welcome but not an every day occurrence (at the time of writing we are suffering from a week of low temperatures and possibly snow too). I have seen snow 4 times in the UK which is 4 times more than I saw it in SA. Generally though most of the places I have lived had warm but short summers and long cold winters, and 2017 was probably the closest I have come to how the weather is supposedly in the UK; cloudy days and low temperatures in summer.

When Spring starts to arrive the country becomes a riot of colour as the flowers bloom and everything wakes up from its long winter sleep.

I have picked up some strange new habits and have a whole new line of food to try. I have developed a taste for cod ‘n chips, I tolerate “brown sauce” and I really enjoy a glass of cider. Pizza is not that great here, so my consumption of it has declined. I was never much of a meat eater and now eat even less, although I do live on “ready meals”. I do not own a television and if I did the TV license would snag a chunk out of my salary, I do not intend buying one. I have really quick broadband and my cellphone has 4G of data.

I could probably rattle on all day about this stuff, but I think I have covered it pretty well in blogposts that stretch from 2013 right up till 28 February 2018. 

It has been quite a ride, but stick with me because I am here for another 5 years, and who knows what changes will happen in South Africa while I am gone, or what will happen when the UK finally divorces itself from the EU. It is going to be interesting though. Talk about Interesting times.

I will periodically return to milestones in my sojourn from a retrospective point of view. It is always good to look back and say “Wow…. I did that?”

DRW © 2018. Created 28/02/2018

Updated: 04/03/2018 — 08:28

Leaving Reuven

23 years ago my mother moved into a complex known as “Reuven” in the South of Johannesburg. At the time it was being managed by Johannesburg Association For The Aged (aka JAFTA). I do recall that getting into the place was very difficult as you had to get on the list and go for an interview etc. As luck would have it she managed to get a place quite easily and moved in shortly thereafter.

The “unit” was really a single room with a small bathroom and kitchen and a bit of space to have a garden. It was basic, but not horrible. The rents were cheap and the facility took people on outings and there was a working kitchen that used to supply lunch for those who were interested. There was also a laundromat and realistically it was a pleasant place to live, assuming you did not have the neighbours from hell and there was a resident caretaker who ensured that work was done and the complex was maintained. 

The block where my mother lived had the local “dragon” as well as a long term resident who considered that she had fallen on hard times and was always muttering about leaving. There was also an elderly man who lived above her and they gave him absolute hell, hounding him from the complex.

(A quick note. I am not going to supply names in this post, but will describe many of the residents with their associated nicknames and faults. Many have since passed on).

At the time there was a caretaker who lived on the premises and who ensured that the council labourers performed their jobs properly. They kept grass cut, removed litter, trimmed trees, emptied dustbins, etc. They also earned a few rands doing “unofficial” jobs for the residents. It was really the sort of place where you could live out your old age in relative peace and safety (assuming that you never had the neighbours from hell and the status quo was maintained.)

Somewhere along the line things started to wobble; I cannot put a date to it, or a specific event, but things just started going wrong. Maintenance slipped, the caretaker left, grass was no longer cut, litter became commonplace and sadly the lady who used to look after the kitchen passed away (Thank you Mina, we will remember you with fondness). There was also a lot of unauthorised modifying of the units, and the usual stirrers stirred the pot. Even at that point it was still very affordable for those who survived on the meagre state pension. Technically a means test was done on new applications, but many who moved in were getting much more than the state pension. You could see it in the new cars and DSTV dishes that sprouted all over the place.

Then things went even more pear shaped and the dirty hand and greasy palm of corruption reared its ugly head. Bribes were paid, and units were “bought”. Blind eyes were turned and the road through the complex became a battleground because some residents appropriated sections as their own personal parking space. It was so bad that traffic cones stand sentinel while the residents are out and about in their cars. Curtains twitched like mad and shouting matches erupted regularly. It would have made a perfect soap opera if anybody had set up cameras.

My brother and I visited my mother every Sunday at Reuven since 1994, and often I could only shake my head at some of the goings on there. The dragon upstairs faded away and the next door neighbour would leave and never return. In fact we always used to comment on who had passed away that week. Like many places it also attracted its share of dunks, wife beaters, dementia sufferers and ne’er do wells. And each left their nasty mark on the environment. There were no repercussions for any wrong doing. It became a free for all. 

Petty theft was rampant, and one incident made me extremely angry. Two “plumbers” were sent to sort out a leaking tap or toilet and they stole my mothers engagement and wedding rings. My brother and I wanted to call the police but my mother would have nothing of it. But I could see she was very hurt over the episode. The lack of maintenance meant that when a geyser failed it was not replaced, when the toilets leaked nobody did anything. Grass became junglelike in appearance, cars were driven up the pavements and parked outside flats, fallen trees rotted where they fell, and money changed hands on a regular basis. Some residents did not pay their rent and the whole web of corruption just continued and nothing was done about it.

At some point pre-paid electricity meters were installed, which was good news because Johannesburg City Power were physically incapable of delivering a bill that made sense, or even reading the meters on a regular basis. My mother was on the receiving end  of their incompetence, paying larger and larger amounts every month because they just carried on messing her around. By the time they installed a prepaid meter they alleged that she owed them almost R1500 in arrears. How a single person in a small flat could use so much electricity was unbelievable. In spite of numerous attempts to sort the problem out we were unable to get them to do their job properly. At the time of writing they have never refunded  the money that was paid by mother through their incompetence. By the time I left for the UK in 2013 solar geysers were installed in the flats and when my mothers geyser stopped working she relied on it.  She complained for almost 2 years and they never bothered to fix it, or even came out to look at it. The geyser was really her bugbear because it leaked for years and nothing was ever done because she did not offer a backhander.

In March this year I returned to Reuven as it was evident that she was no longer able to cope on her own and we had to make a decision and at some point she would have to  leave Reuven and move into a care home. She lived in her flat for 23 years, the longest that she has lived in one place her whole life.  When I was there I could not help but feel very sad to see the remnants of her life and independence that remained. Her dressing table has been with her since before I was born, and she still uses some of the cutlery from her original dinner service. She replaced her bed when she moved in and has slept on that bed for 23 years. She is still using the fridge I bought in 1986, and while the TV and DVD player is relatively new, I do not think she has been using it since the beginning of this year. In fact she used to listen to the wireless a lot, and now Radio Today has lost one of their only fans  😉  Her current neighbour has been a pillar of strength, and without her I do not know what we would have done. 

In the time she lived there she did not really associate with most of the residents, although there were those who she befriended. One was an elderly coloured lady called Katey who used to visit her and do odd jobs for her. My mother and her were very close, but she passed away suddenly and my mother was devastated, as were we. It was part of the problem of living in a place like this, many would walk in and be carried out. Residents died regularly, often unnoticed until the smell of decay raised eyebrows.

The sad thing was that if something did happen to a resident, they were helpless. There was no help available. There was no regular nurse or caretaker or medical service.   And unfortunately, when somebody passed away it became a regular free for all with residents to see who could get there first to remove furniture or white goods.  Never mind that the former resident has not even been buried yet.

The whole Reuven experience was interesting because I saw the best and worst of my fellow man. I could write reams about the disaster that it became. Yet, for many it was home, and for many it was the last home that they had.  It is such a pity that it was allowed to become a hot bed of corruption, and I sincerely hope that those responsible get locked away for a very long time for exploiting the aged. And, those that were paying the bribes get to feel the weight of the law too. It take two parties to be corrupt, and a blind eye of those in authority to allow it to thrive.

The one interesting part of visiting Reuven was the collection of old cars that some residents had. It provided a lot of material for my website.

For my brother and I a chapter closes on  this part of our lives. We may never pass Reuven again, although I may end up there myself one day. Anything is possible.

I am sure my mother was just as scared of moving to this final home in her life as we are, only more so.

Rest in Peace Katey, thank you for all you did, and for being so special, and thanks to all of those who were a part of my mothers life. As for the rest? you know what they say about the wheel that turns? 

Postscript.

My mother finally moved a week ago and my brother emptied the flat this weekend and gave away most of her furniture and appliances that she would no longer need.  For me it has been very sad because I suspect at some point I will be in her position, the only difference being that I will have nowhere to go. 

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 7 May 2017, finally posted 28/05/2017. 

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:58

Those last few days

Monday 03 April.

I am now in my last week in South Africa, and it has been an interesting trip with a number of things changed and different paths considered. My flight leaves on Thursday evening but between then and now anything can happen, especially given the political situation in South Africa.  I will not comment on what is going on, I do not have too much interest in it, instead I will concentrate on the aspects of the trip that are relevant. 

Amongst the changes that I saw were the decline in shops at what used to be my local shopping malls. A lot have simply closed their doors and no longer exist, while some have probably moved elsewhere. However I would like to put on record that in most of the places where I had to deal with staff behind counters the service that I received was excellent, smiles abounded and staff really went out of their way to help me. The other thing that I noticed was the increased cost of basics in shops. When I left in March 20132 we were already feeling the spike in prices thanks to the exchange rate, increased transport costs and overall greed and lack of ethics. Petrol was sitting at R13.31 pl of 93 octane, although it was supposed to drop slightly on Wednesday (as at 05/07/2018 95 Octane is R16.02 per litre).  I tried to make some comparisons with prices that I could remember and frankly I was shocked. Once I get the images off my cellphone I will post some of the more drastic ones that I encountered. 

I revisited three cemeteries in the time I was here, (Brixton, Florida and West Park), and of course I visited my mother whose condition is of major concern. Unfortunately I do not have an answer to her situation, it is beyond my experience, I do not know what can be done. The plus side is that somebody has cracked the whip at the place where she lives and the disgusting corruption that has gone on there has hopefully been stopped and some heads will roll. That is long overdue. It is very sad to see how the corruption thrived there, almost everybody knew about it but nothing was ever done because it was rotten all the way down.

And, during my last few days there were a number of things that happened that may be worth remembering: a series of earthquakes happened, one being centred in Botswana and another in Klerksdorp, the finance minister and his deputy were recalled and fired by the president and a new (and more compliant?) one appointed. Consequently South Africa was downgraded to “Junk” status by S&P Global Ratings. and naturally the Rand has started to wobble, and at the time of writing (04/04/2017) it was  R13.80 to the $, R17.21 to the £ and R14.72 to the € (as at 05/07/2018 the rates are 13.55 to the  $, R17.98 to the £ and R15.87  to the €). There is a mass protest planned for Friday, and I like to think it will bring about change, but already I am hearing the voices of those who have been “captured” or are just too plain stupid to read the writing on the wall. Who was it that said “May you live in interesting times”? (Fitch has subsequently downgraded South Africa to junk status too).

I also moved the remaining bins of my possessions to a new storage area, and took pics during the drive there and back. As usual Johannesburg was traffic laden, something made worse by the metro police who should spend less time holding roadblocks or sitting behind cameras and more time policing the roads.

I also revisited the shopping centre where I used to work, formerly a Drive-In it used to still have a screen in the parking lot. That is now gone too.

There have been a number of superficial changes to the public side of the centre, but it was like a morgue on the day I was there. 

I went around to the back of the centre and it was quite sad to see the building where I worked from 2005 till 2011. It is now part of the Action Cricket industry, and the Bosch Service Centre is no longer there either. I remember how much time, money and effort we put into making that building a safe and better workplace, but once we were bought out it was obvious to us all that our days there were few. I specifically recall how we had that section of fence erected but with hindsight it was really a dumb idea. 

I revisited my friend in the building where I used to stay and am happy to report that I finally saw the Rietbok in the Kloofendal Reserve. Unfortunately my flat used to face the street instead of the reserve.  

 The nitty gritty of prices.

As I mentioned before, prices were crazy, and I noticed it already in 2014 when I last visited SA. Unfortunately I did not write down the prices of items back then and this time around I photographed a lot of advertising leaflets to keep if one day I want to make the comparison. I drew R1000 at an atm in SA and it cost me £64.60.

Old Gold Tomato Sauce R22.79/700ml

Sedgwicks OBS R34.99 750ml

2 litres Clover milk R29.79

Eskort streaky bacon R33.99

Forex (06/-4/2017)

Rama R32.99 (500gr)

Butter: R84.99 (500gr)

Beacon Easter Eggs R68.99

These are just a few examples that I spotted, and some items may have been on sale. The items are not indicative of my own personal preferences and are sourced through leaflets and shops I visited in the West Rand. The prices below come off leaflets and have no illustrations: (I will be adding to this list as I go along)

Milo 500gr tin R51.99

Enterprise Bitso Bacon 200g R29.99

Stork Country Spread 1kg R29.99

Dewfresh milk 1 Litre R14.99

Gordons Gin 750ml R99.99

Hunters Dry 12x440ml Cans R129.99  

30 Extra large eggs R44.99

Ultra Mel Custard 1 Litre R22.99

Enterprise Back Bacon 200gr R23.99

Fresh chicken breast fillets R59.99/kg

Nature’s Garden Cuntry Mix frozen vegetabkes: R24.99  (1kg)

Sea Harvest Oven Crisp fish portions (6 portions)  400gr R35.99 

Sea Harvest Haddock fillets R59.99 500gr (4 portions)

Pot o’ Gold garden peas 400gr tin R9.99

Black Cat plain or crunchy peanut butter R24.99 (400gr bottle)

Selati white sugar 2,5kg R64.99 

Snoflake self raising flour 2,5gr R29.99

Hisense 299 litre fridge/freezer R3999

Defy 196 litre chest freezer R2599

Parmalat 6×1 Litre long life milk R69.99

Coca-Cola 2 litre bottle R13.49

Frankies old style root beer 500 ml R15.99

Sansui double solid hotplate R249

Bakers Romany Creams R17.99

Cadbury chocolate slabs 80gr R10.99

Lipton ice tea 1,5 litre R15.99

Ferrero Rocher 16 pack R59.99

Joko Tea 100 tea bags R26.99

Steers Wacky Wednesday R45.00, King Steer R61.90 (burger only), Regular chips R15.90 

and finally, an indication of prepaid data prices from a service provider.

20MB? gee, you can do so much with it, even Telkom dial up was more affordable.

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 08/04/2017, added in 2018 petrol price and exchange rates 05/07/2018.  

Updated: 05/07/2018 — 12:35

James Hall Museum Of Transport

One of the better museums in Johannesburg is the James Hall  Museum of Transport in La Rochelle in Southern Johannesburg. It is the sort of place that is always worth visiting even if you have been there many times before. The museum was founded in 1964 by the late James “Jimmie” Hall and in conjunction with the Johannesburg City Council. The oldest motorcar on display is a 1900 Clement Panhard, but there are other items that are much older.

I have spent many hours there, meandering through the exhibits and I really enjoy seeing so many vehicles from my past. However, it is very difficult to present a balanced view of the museum because it has so many exhibits, and they are really a feast for the eyes. The museum consists of a number of exhibition spaces. Entry is at the doorway on the image above. This part of the museum does not really interest me because it is really about the days when the petrol engine was but a dream.

From this hall you move into the open courtyard area where many of the vehicles are stored or displayed. This is also where the majority of the traction engines are housed behind a fence. Many exhibits move around within the museum so some of my images show the exhibit where it was at the time and it may no longer be in that position at the time of writing or reading.

This is supposedly the largest collection of traction engine and steam powered vehicles in the country. However, I do not know how many of them can actually run. Many of the exhibits are related to transport in Johannesburg, so you will find the Christmas Bus, travelling Library and a number of ex-council vehicles in this space 

This is also where you can find the toilets and a small refreshment concession. The entrance to the next hall can be found in this courtyard and it leads into the hall where the majority of the exhibits are fire engines. 

This space leads into the blue tinted hall that houses the classic cars and motor cycles from many eras. It is a fascinating space and I remember many of those vehicles from my own childhood.

The door to the outside shed is to the right in this hall, and to the bus hall in the corner on the left of this image. The outside shed is where the agricultural machinery and steam engines are stored. I photographed the steam engines many years ago and their history may be found at old Steam Locomotives in South Africa (4 pages)

You get to the last exhibition space through the motor vehicle space and this hall is used to exhibit buses from various places in three lines. It also has the last tram that ran in Johannesburg. Unfortunately, the nature of the hall precludes effective photography because it is a very narrow space.

The exit to the museum is through this hall (image below)

 

That is the museum in a nutshell.  Do not take my word for it though, it is an awesome museum and well worth a visit. The museum does not charge for entry but a donation is always helpful, and always check the opening times so that you are not disappointed.

Many years ago the Transvaal Branch of the World Ship Society was given an area to exhibit nauticalia in when they held an open day. There are almost no aircraft or ship related exhibits. All the images in this post were taken at the museum over 4 different visits. 

© DRW 2017-2018. 03/04/2017

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:50

Where I am now

It is 29 March and I am midway through my trip to South Africa. It has not been a very busy time but I have had to do certain things that needed sorting.

My mother was doing very badly when I first saw her, her situation is complicated, and there is no hard and fast solution, At this moment the best we can do is try to find some way to ensure that she is safe and cared for as best we can. After typing this I will be heading out to visit her. The traffic in Johannesburg is still a mess; that never changes! and as a result I have to wait until rush hour ends before venturing forth.

The roads were very quiet on the morning I landed because it was a public holiday, on a normal day this area is like a madhouse with the rules of the road being ignored by all and sundry. The tallest building in this image is the Carlton Centre and at the top of that building is the viewing deck where I took pics in 2011

The image above is taken from the top of the Carlton looking East in the direction where the first image was taken from.

I stayed with my brother for a day before heading to the West Rand where my friends stay and my storage unit is. I will stay on the West Rand until I fly home on the 6th.

The West Rand is not as bad as it is made out to be, and parts of it are very pretty. I used to live on the border of the Kloofendal Nature Reserve where the Confidence Reef is situated. It is a very unspoilt bit of land and my one friend has a wonderful view of the area from her flat.

There are a number of small mammals in the reserve, although all we could see on that afternoon were “Dassies” (Rock Hyrax).

There are also a lot of Guinea Fowl, and we often used to find them foraging in the parking lot of the building.

I did have a few places that I wanted to see once again, and I was keen to take a look at the Reid Tenwheeler that had been plinthed at the Rand Society of Model Engineers in Florida.

Of course I also got to see my favourite cat… Unfortunately he thinks he is a catfish that is trapped inside a cat’s body and that leaves him very tired and prone to wearing odd things on his head.

I was also re-acquainted with Niknaks. There are Niknaks in the UK but they do not come close to the ones that are sold in SA.

Talking of prices: Petrol is R13.31 a litre for 93 Octane. From 1 April it will decrease by 22 cents, however there is a 30 cent increase in the fuel levy and a 9 cent increase in the Road Accident Fund levy. 

The political situation in South Africa is of concern as the corrupt battle it out with the non corrupt and there were some interesting developments during this past week. Two famous South Africans passed away so far: Ahmed Kathrada,  a politician and former political prisoner and anti-apartheid activist.  As well as Joe Mafela, a popular TV star and entertainer. Both are being buried from West Park Cemetery this morning (Wednesday). Unfortunately my plans for the day involved a visit to West Park, and those plans have now been changed.

I am also going to try get to as many memorials as I can to see what condition they are in. The Ferreira Deep Memorial is a bit of an awkward one to photograph and I only managed a quick pic while we waited for the robot to change.

I also went to take a look at the war memorial in Rotunda Park in Turffontein. The long missing name plaque was replaced in March 2015 and this was the first time I had seen it after it was restored.

I spent two days sorting through my storage unit and disposing of more of my “stuff” but there is still a lot there and I am moving it to my brother’s house so that the money saved there can contribute to some sort of help for my mother.   

That pretty much sums up where I am now. 

29/03/2017. 15H35. I am at home. It has been a hot day, possibly one of the hottest I have experienced in quite some time. I have had quite an interesting morning, and here are some pics.

After visiting mum I headed to Turffontein Race Course where I wanted to photograph the Hennenman Air Crash Memorial. I had heard about it following photographs by Clinton Hattingh of a memorial in Alberton. The security at the race course were not sure where the memorial was, but they went out of their way to assist me in my quest. The Memorial is situated close to the offices of the race course, but inside a secure area. 

Once I finished with the race course I headed to the James Hall Museum of Transport in Rosettenville Road.

Last year when I did my blogpost about Bubble Cars and Micro Cars  I had two vehicles that I could not identify and I was hoping to rectify that today. However, between when my original pics were taken so long ago, and today the 2 vehicles have been removed and there is now a small exhibition on small cars that features a Messerschmitt, a BMW Isetta, The Enfield Electric Car as well as an Optimal Energy Joule.

At a later date I will do a blog post about the museum because it really deserves a post all on its own. The museum is in a beautiful condition and it is well worth making the trip to see it.

While I was in the area I stopped briefly at Wemmer Pan.  Sadly Pioneer Park is somewhat of a mess, it really seems to serve no real purpose anymore. Surprisingly enough the swimming pool is still open, but I was unable to get into the building.

The station and roof where the Johannesburg Live Steamers club used to operate from are still there, but the trains no longer circle the raised tracks. The tracks have been lifted and club has relocated Rietvlei Zoo Farm.  

Leaving Wemmer Pan I climbed onto the M1 and headed off to Newtown to photograph two items that I had seen at Museum Africa in 2012. I had first been in Newtown in 2011 and revisited it in 2012, and at the time there was a lot of talk about redeveloping the “Potato Sheds” and erection of an office block/mall etc. That has now happened and frankly I think the end result was disappointing.  

I was glad to see that the old railway footbridge still survives, but it was barricaded closed.

Museum Africa borders on Mary Fitzgerald Square and it was a let down, the one exhibit I was after was closed and the other did not have the items I was looking for.  But, that’s how things go when you have after thoughts.  Sadly the museum is not a tourism hotspot and it was very quiet when I was there.

It was time to start heading home, and there are a number of possible routes to the West Rand. The one I chose would take me past Brixton Cemetery and I decided to pop in for a visit.

The cemetery is looking beautiful with its masses of green trees and beautiful light. It is a very pretty place, but I did not feel very secure there as vast sections of the fence have been stolen. Just before I left for the UK a lot of gravestones in the Jewish section had been vandalised and since then it has been fenced off. More images are available at my Photo Essay about Brixton Cemetery

I have spent many hours in this cemetery and it is like visiting and old friend. It is just such a pity that I did not really feel very safe, certainly not as safe as I feel in some of the cemeteries in the UK.

And that was my day. West  Park has been shelved for another day, and on Friday I am going to relocate my stuff from the storage unit so the blog may be slightly quiet for awhile. Once I have returned home I will expand this page and create subposts about some of the things I have seen. But, that is another story for another time

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 29/03/2017

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:51

Going home

Early on Monday I started my long journey to South Africa. It entailed 4 train rides and an 11 hour flight. I am doing a direct flight this time around so won’t have that long layover in Dubai to deal with and two flights. Frankly I do not mind flying Emirates but really dislike that airport and I am struggling with my lower back and hip pain.

It is worth noting that my destination is no longer what I consider “Home“. 

Why am I doing this? My mother is 87 and doing poorly. My original intention was to head down there next year, but I am sufficiently concerned to change my plans. I do not know what the outcome of this trip will be. Actually, if things do not go well in the future I will be flying back anyway. 

The chances are I won’t be posting many updates until I get back in April, so till then keep the powder dry, and boil the kettle!

And don’t forget to put the cat out, although I did not know he was on fire.

Getting underway…. 

I left Tewkesbury early on Monday 20th from Ashchurch for Tewkesbury Station. It was a cold and gloomy day and from there I traveled to Cheltenham Spa and boarded the GWR train to London Paddington Station.  I had last been at Paddington in June 2016, so was more confident of what I could do or not do from the station. 

Our loco; 43187, was one of the recently repainted GWR operated vehicles, and she was  branded as “The Welshman”. My plan was to leave my luggage at Paddington and grab the tube to South Kensington and then go visit the Science Museum as well as photograph the interior of the Natural History Museum. I had allowed roughly 3 hours to do this before I had to get back to catch the train to Heathrow,

However, before I did anything I went to the War Memorial on the station that has really taken on a deeper meaning since I read the book (Letter to an Unknown Soldier) that is based on this famous statue.  

I then caught the Circle Line at Paddington, heading west towards South Kensington Station.

There is a subway that runs under the streets from the tube station to the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, and that saved me a long walk through Kensington Gardens in what could have changed to wet weather.

Emerging from the subway I was at the Natural History Museum.  I had seen the building in 2016, but had not really taken much notice because I am not really interested in a museum like that, however, the building is magnificent and unfortunately the entrance where I emerged was closed, and at that point alarm bells started to ring in my head.

The museum was boarded off and my heart sank when I realised I was not going to be seeing the interior of the building. I had seen it briefly in the Paddington Movie and that is what really spurred my interest in seeing the interior. Unfortunately, this part of the museum was closed and I had to make do with a few long shots and not much else.

Around the block I schleped… thoroughly browned off at this happening, a similar thing had happened when I first arrived in London in 2013 and went to visit the Imperial War Museum.

My walk around the block did reveal one interesting object worthy of photographing:

Known as the “Queen’s Tower” it is all that remains of the Imperial Institute, which was built to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. The unveiling stone was laid by Queen Victoria on 4 July 1881,  The Imperial Institute building was demolished between 1957 and 1967 and between 1967 and 1968 work was carried out to enable the tower to stand on its own and the lower portion of the tower was substantially rebuilt. (https://www.imperial.ac.uk/about/history/queens-tower/)

The London Science Museum

The London Science Museum

My first Science Museum visit in June 2016 was by necessity a short one. I had missed the entire flight exhibition and I really wanted to explore it further.

The London Science Museum

I have created a post dealing with the Science Museum visit but I will expand it when I return home in April, This post is really a quickie to establish some sort of continuity, and as such we will jump forward to Paddington Station where I boarded the Heathrow Express  and headed off to the airport to board my onward flight to South Africa with Virgin Atlantic.

It cost me £22 for the one way trip, while the trip from OR Tambo airport to Marlboro Station in Johannesburg on the Gautrain set me back R150. It is an interesting comparison. (£1 = ±R15)

Check in was easy although I kept on dropping everything, and after a shortish wait I was on board the Boeing 787, with a row to myself. This particular aircraft is called “Birthday Girl” and it would be the first time I have flown in a “Dreamliner”. 

As far as flights go it was not too bad, the food was ok, the onboard video service was reasonably good, although I only watched 3 movies. What I did find poor was that that they did not come around with beverages often and luckily I had a small water bottle with me. Service wise Emirates wins hands down, but I was not as sore and tired after this flight as I would have been had I done the stopover in Dubai.  The interior of the aircraft changes colour which explains the pinks and purples, and the windows do not have blinds, instead they have a button that either lightens or darkens the window when needed. I was however concerned that there were not as many toilet facilities as on the other aircraft I have flown on. 

Because I had a row to myself I was able to indulge in some photography too as we headed south.

And then we were on final approach to OR Tambo, and I saw Johannesburg in the distance. I had last been here just under 3 years ago, and considering how much I had read about the economic and political situation in the country I was not too sure what I would find.

Approaching ORT, with Johannesburg in the distance (1500×964)

Because it was “Human Rights Day” the airport was relatively quiet, and by 8.30 I was on my way to Marlboro where I was collected by my brother.

24/03/2017

My mother is doing very badly and drastic action has to be taken and tough decisions made and I do not have any quick and ready answers. To be frank I was shocked, and at times I still cannot believe it. However, we can only do our best with what resources we have and then take it from there.

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 21-24/03/2017.

Updated: 20/03/2018 — 20:33

Meanwhile, back at the ranch….

Well, my short sojourn to South Africa has finished and I am back in the UK. I am suffering from sinusitis and apathy, and frankly dread going back to work tomorrow.
 
I was only there for just under 3 weeks, but accomplished a lot. My car is sold, my furniture is sold, my collection of “stuff” is so much smaller, and I have managed to cull 2 sources of debt from my “portfolio”.  It was traumatic getting rid of some that I have had for years. I still had the bed I bought in 1984, as well as quite a few other items that I bought all those years ago when I moved out on my own. They are now history.
 
What did I think of South Africa? 
 
It has become expensive; foodstuff and clothing have jumped in price, all of which is exacerbated by the e-toll debacle. Service is still mundane in some places, and generally the areas I was in are looking decidedly shabbier. Quite a number of shops that I had frequented before had also closed, and there was a decided look of emptiness on the shelves of others. I did experience very good service in a number of places, and for that I am grateful. It did make my life easier. Unfortunately SA is suffering from a number of strikes that are effectively killing the economy, and that means things will just get tougher. If my memory is right the Rand/Pound exchange rate was about £1=R16 when I arrived, and when I left it was £1=R18.04.
 
I was not there to do the “braaivleis, rugby, sunnyskies and chevrolet” thang (gads, I hate that advert). It was all about rationalising my stuff and moving the balance into a smaller storage unit. I did bring 3 of my doll collection back with me,  and some of my anime has also come back with me. My computer is broken up, my book collection is reduced, and it was not an easy thing to do. 
My mother was relieved to see me after so long, but I think she is also resigned to the fact that I will not see her again probably till next year. She is unfortunately bearing the brunt of neighbours from hell, and is convinced that “payback time” will arrive one day. The reality is that had I had a job in SA I would not have moved to here, and could have done something to get her moved elsewhere. Frail care would be the ideal situation, but finances really govern what can or can’t be done.  I was also re-united with my friends and of course their collection of cats, sadly, one of these is really showing his age and it was not easy to see this once fiercesome street fighter reduced to being a mere shade of his former self.
 
The flights home were long, and by the time we landed I was tired, but, I did get to watch a number of interesting movies, most memorable being “I, Frankenstein” and “Pompeii”.  I do not know how I managed to get such a kak seat on my Dubai – Heathrow leg, but I do know that the guy sitting next to me was a real grumpy-kun. Frankly I am not too big a fan of those new fangled A380’s, if anything they are just like everything else I have flown on, just with more people.
 
So, in a nutshell that was my trip. Phew, tomorrow its back to the olde grindstone. I just hope that the pile of busted equipment hasn’t completely obliterated my desk.

 

© DRW 2014-2018. Image recreated 17/04/2016

Updated: 30/12/2017 — 20:46

Heading south

At this moment in time (07.20 on the 19th of May), I am about ready to start packing for my journey to South Africa. I have a number of things to settle there, and this trip is about that. Unfortunately my house move did eat into my available funds which meant I had to book an indirect flight as opposed to a through flight.
london 056
  
The difference here is that usually the departure point would have been South Africa, now it is the UK, which does tend to hammer in the reality that I no longer live in SA. The place where I will arrive at the end of the trip will be Salisbury and not Johannesburg.
 
I will probably take pics, although realistically I have more than enough pics of Johannesburg, and naturally I will be going grave hunting while I am there. I will also be seeing what is left of my family (which is really quite small), and I am hoping to bring my customised Twinn doll back with me. But, these things can change at any moment.  It is also the first time I will be flying from Gatwick, and the arrangements to get there are quite formidable on their own.
 
South Africa is heading into Winter now, just as we are in Spring in the UK, and hopefully I won’t need my “bear jacket”. So, silence on my part means that “I’m not dead, I feel fine, getting better. Think I’ll go for a walk.”

Or in this case, I think I will climb on a plane….. (or 3)

© DRW 2014-2018. Images recreated 17/04/2016

Updated: 30/12/2017 — 20:48

Heading Out

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed stirrings in my life. There is a good reason for this, because on 28 February I am heading out to the United Kingdom.  
 
The decision was made shortly after we were retrenched, but it took quite a bit of time to get paperwork together and organise my life. The Olympic Games in London also confused the issue somewhat. However, I am now on my last legs so wish me luck. 
 
How long will I be there? I honestly don’t know. It is one of those things that I will talk about when I know more. At the moment I don’t know anything apart from having two long flights, and a temporary place in South London. My flat in South Africa is packed up and my stuff is going into storage.
 
So, if things get a tad quiet here, you now know why.  
Postscript 2017. 
I have now been in the UK for 4 years and 10 months, I have seen a lot and still need to see more, but my visa expires on the first day of the new year, and until I get a decision I am literally in limbo. 
 
DRW 01/03/2013 – 27/12/2017 
 
Updated: 26/12/2017 — 16:03

Bye bye to my bank

Today I closed my bank account. It is roughly 30 years since I moved from my original bank to Standard. I originally had a savings account at the then Barclays Bank Harrison Street Branch because my brother worked for them and I needed the account for when I went into the army. 
When I came out of the army and was doing my apprenticeship I decided that I really needed a cheque book, so I toddled along to a Barclays branch in Braamfontein close to where I worked. I was met by a snooty suit wearing banking clone who icely informed me that I needed R500 in my account to open a cheque book account. I used to get paid the princely sum of R195 (before deductions) per month in those days working as an appy, so R500 was nearly 3 months salary! I walked out and went into Standard Bank Airways Centre branch where I opened my cheque account with the 75 cents I had in my pocket at the time. I then went back to Barclays and withdrew all the money out of the account and closed it. I have never liked Barclays after that, and when they left South Africa I did not bat an eyelid. They will not get my business when I go to the UK either.
Standard Bank gave me good service over the years. Their atm’s worked like a charm, their service was reasonably good and I very rarely ever went into a branch. In fact, my current branch I have been in only once, and that was the day I had to close my old account and re-open a new one, and that was in 1999.  My ATM card was 12 years old, and I sadly cut it in half today.  Sure, some Standard branches did give me poor service, and the last lot of poor service from Clearwater Mall branch was one of the reasons that I closed the account.  Apart from exorbitant bank charges of course, but that’s another story for another day. 
I do have a long memory though, and when I went to finance my 2nd vehicle I tried ABSA and they declined it. Wesbank treated me like royalty and have financed 3 of my vehicles. I financed my house through the Natal Building Society (NBS) because at the time Standard had a reputation for not approving bonds, and they lost that part of my business. 
A few years back I opened a Capitec account and it was dormant for quite some time as I only used to put any spare savings into it. But as we approached the here and now it has become my primary bank. And I get good service and cheap bank charges too. 
The only problem I still have is: When I emptied the account out yesterday they charged me 65 cents to sms me. So I owed them 65 cents. However, they reversed it, and have probably charged me R25 to reverse it, and then another 65 cents to sms me to tell me I now owe them R25.65. They will then reverse that and charge me another R25.65. Oh gads, I should have paid them that 65c.  But, they would then probably charge me a cash deposit fee of R20 for depositing 65c and 65c to sms me to tell me I owed them R20.65!  And, at the way these thing go I may never be rid of Standard Bank after all! 
Thanks Standard Bank for the good service over the years. 
Updated: 07/05/2016 — 06:31
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